The Center for Academic and Global Engagement (CAGE) staff is hoping to increase enrollment in global learning programs by 10 percent this year.
Virginija Wilcox, assistant director of study abroad and National Student Exchange, said she’s going into this school year with a new purpose.
“We’re thinking about getting out of our offices and being in different areas on campus and having open advising sessions and information sessions to show students what the opportunities are,” Wilcox said. “Now we have more time to bring in fresh ideas, more memberships and better marketing.”
CAGE recently became partners with the Diversity Abroad Organization, an international organization which advocates for students from diverse backgrounds and provides them with scholarship opportunities for studying abroad.
Søren Peterson, assistant director of faculty-led programs, said 185 USD students studied abroad last year.
“Our membership helps us think more about diversity in general and how the diversity of the study abroad offerings and participation by students meshes or doesn’t necessarily with USD,” Peterson said. “What we want students at USD to understand is that study abroad is for them. It’s for literally any
CAGE has also initiated a study abroad student ambassadors program. So far, there are 15 study abroad student ambassadors who will help with marketing, organizing events and getting USD students involved and seeing the programs available for global learning.
One of the student ambassadors, sophomore Matias Kowang, studied in Fez, Morocco this past summer. Kowang studied Arabic and Arab culture.
“I lived with a Moroccan host family, so I was living exactly like a local Moroccan,” Kowang said. “That hands down had to be the best part of my whole experience. I went to Morocco during the month of Ramadan, so the religious customs were a cool thing to be a part of and learn.”
Benefits to studying abroad
In the last few years, CAGE has sent students anywhere from Spain and France, to Lithuania and Canada.
Besides studying in a different country, students can also travel across the nation through National Student Exchange and attend other schools.
Wilcox said USD is the top school in the state for NSE.
“With the numbers we recruit for National Student Exchange, we are way ahead of other schools,” Wilcox said. “There’s not only career value, but also academic value and cultural value, so we really try to emphasize to students that there are a lot of benefits. Your study abroad experience will definitely set you apart from other students.”
Peterson said he’s also making a concerted effort to show how affordable studying abroad can be, and that there’s a program available for just about anyone, regardless of their major.
“There’s this myth that study abroad is more expensive than a semester here and that’s not always the case,” Peterson said. “Reading about another country or culture is one thing, but actually experiencing it and living it brings a whole new reality to it.”
After studying in Morocco, Kowang said any students interested in studying abroad should try it.
“The studying abroad experiences can be used in every aspect of your life,” Kowang said. “Studying abroad will truly challenge you and show you who you are.”
Wilcox said one of the benefits of studying abroad is networking with people all over the world.
“The world is so much bigger than South Dakota,” Wilcox said. “You’re going to make connections and make lifetime friends that live all around the world. You can touch another country somehow by living there for just a few months. You become a part of another culture.”